Who owns this new brick wall?

Who owns this new brick wall?

Postby Swift Cottage » Thu Nov 19, 2015 11:56 am

This is my first time on this site so I hope I am in the right place.

Back story: I bought a cottage in Nov 2014. The Seller was a landscape contractor who did most of the interior renovation himself or with his professional colleagues. Much of what he did was either of very high quality (when an aesthetic) or very poor quality when mechanical or not visible i.e. incorrect concrete/sand mix under washer and dryer so surface crumbled, kitchen floor tiles not run under cabinets, woefully undersized back boiler for number of radiators (or rather far too many radiators for the size back boiler) to provide heat. When he moved out he and his wife took things they’d agreed to leave on the Law Society Fixtures & Fittings declaration, including leaving me with exposed dangling wires for wall and ceiling lights. At the time I contacted my solicitor re: their failure to adhere to the sales contract but all she offered to do was write a letter, which he would simply ignore. This introduction by way of explaining my distrust of him. I hoped never to see him again.

I have but one neighbour to my triangular plot (South facing apex); they are on the hypotenuse, so to speak, on the North side of the property. This boundary travels West to East: from the West it extends about 12 m as a brick/rubble/flint wall which stops just short of the cottage corner as a moisture break; turns roughly North as a 3 m long timber fence which runs into, at roughly 90 deg, my half of the long and narrow brick old village Laundry which is split into two halves – Neighbours own the West half, I own the East half); boundary continues about 3 m across/through this structure; turns East again, running along the North rear brick wall of the Laundry (about 6m). A brick stub wall (about 3m) is contiguous and in line with the entire North wall of the Laundry. (first post means I cannot attach plan)

At the end of the brick stub wall, the boundary, until now, carried on as a very overgrown hedge bulging into my garden (not a problem for me). The nice neighbours said it was their hedge but the ivy growing on it probably came from my side and did I mind taking it out? Not at all, I said, as I was looking to gain a bit of space beneath. I chopped out some of the hedge at the base (not a problem for them) and found the hedge was clearly theirs as the stems emerged on their side (North) of the brick stub wall ‘line’. Several years ago they had a timber privacy fence put in. They were unhappy with it as it was deep inside their garden, offset inwards due to bulging hedge – the hedge should have been removed at that time but it wasn’t (their fault, they said, as they did not want to upset the installer).

So far, so good.

The West brick/rubble/flint wall described above had varying heights when I acquired the cottage. It was about 2m tall closest to the cottage but was only 50-60cm tall at the road. It had not been maintained for decades, so bits had fallen off in a stepped fashion. I approached them, asking if they would be happy for me to repair the wall and cut down my very tall and overgrown hedge (on my side of brick wall) which shaded their drive. They were thrilled and loved the resulting wall of reclaimed brick set with lime mortar.

So thrilled in fact they came to me suggesting we share the cost of continuing the 1.8m tall brick stub wall on the East side of the Laundry to the Eastern-most end of the properties. I agreed, noting that for the wall to stay in alignment with the current brick stub wall it would be on my property. But I felt this was fine as we would both own it. As they had suggested this project they offered to bear a bit more of the cost, namely the digging out of their hedge/fence and the foundations. The snag for me was they only wanted to employ the previous owner of my cottage as they trusted him. They were adamant and would not even entertain a second opinion. I was not very happy, but forbore it (I’m still waiting for quote from another brickie, but in conversations with others think the quote is about right).

My sole concern at the time was the breadth of the footer – I did not want a huge footer extending into a narrow planting pocket between a paved terrace and the stub wall (which the contractor recommended demolishing so the entire wall was completely new). I was clear both verbally and via email about my footer concerns.

Contractor said he would start job at the end of a particular week – a week I was away for the first two days. On my return I find the job well in hand, the excavations done, the footer poured and, as the site slopes mainly along the E-W axis (running length of the wall), short retaining boards traverse the trench as shuttering to step the footer down. He had not pulled a string to align the trench so when I arrived to see 2-3 courses of engineering brick already laid, it was obvious the bricks were not centred on the footer. In some sections the engineering brick was practically flush with the footer’s side on the neighbours side, yet extending 30cm into my garden. I asked the assistant (contractor not on site that day but he did pour footer day before) about the breadth of the footer. He replied that as the soil was so sandy, while trenching the sides kept collapsing in so the footer was V-shaped and they could probably trim off some of the projecting concrete. He did not explain the zigzag effect of the step-downs.

I did some on-line research for design guides of free-standing brick walls and learned more than I needed about wind pressure and soil types (turns out this sandy soil requires a broader footer than normal). I also discovered that a footer should have a flat base and vertical sides to spread the load.

I approached my neighbour who had also noted the zigzag but had said nothing to the contractor while it was being dug/poured (didn’t want to upset him).

That week-end I broached the subject with my neighbour about this unevenly loaded footer, expressing my concern that it was unsafe, At first he was very defensive about what had been done but quickly agreed my view was valid. However, he is still confident in the contractor, repeatedly affirming that he was happy with the work and trusts the contractor to know what he was doing (“I’m not going to tell him how to do his job – he knows what he is doing!”). I did not agree and said I would speak to the contractor. I spent Saturday trying to figure out how to speak to this person I do not trust. On Sunday the neighbour pre-empted me, saying it was more important to him for us to be on friendly terms and he would cover the entire cost of the wall, maintenance and liability. The site slopes down towards his property (does not retain any soil), so if footer does fail the wall might well topple in his direction). Not a small thing.

However, now that he considers it ‘his’ wall (and very beautiful it is), he will not permit me to affix any trellis or posts to it ‘as it might make it top-heavy’. Ironic. Never mind, I'll put up parallel free-standing fence posts with trellis-work.

Issue: I do not want any liability for this wall as I do not believe it is safe; I am concerned that it does not meet Highway Code as it is less than 1m from the road (Contractor said it was fine). I suspect that with all the best intentions we have set up a snake pit for the future.

Having read through many posts here I note that Mac has frequently responded "your land, your wall". Do I in fact unwillingly own the wall as it sits on my property? Not exactly what I want to hear. Or does neighbour as he paid for it?

I prefer to be completely disengaged with this wall. The neighbour is 89 and I do not expect the next owner to be as benevolent.

Goal: to clarify who is liable in the eyes of Highways, and other local bodies, and prevent future wrangling between neighbours. I do not believe his verbal statement accepting libility is sufficient as it will not be linked to legal records, etc.

Question: I am happy to cede ‘ownership’ of the 3.36 m sq beneath the wall (21cm w x 16m long). But I suspect it is not easy do so (selling it?, involve surveyors, valuation, creating a new LR Title number, etc, etc?). What legal mechanism might achieve my goal? I have had previous experience of a Deed of Easement for a 999 yr terms, on consideration of maintaining a small area of land (entry steps), etc.

Thanks and apologies for the long post.
Swift Cottage
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:52 pm

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Re: Who owns this new brick wall?

Postby MacadamB53 » Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:40 am

Hi Swift Cottage,

they came to me suggesting we share the cost of continuing the 1.8m tall brick stub wall on the East side of the Laundry to the Eastern-most end of the properties. I agreed, noting that for the wall to stay in alignment with the current brick stub wall it would be on my property...

how so?

Kind regards, Mac
Posts: 5965
Joined: Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:13 am

Re: Who owns this new brick wall?

Postby Swift Cottage » Sun Dec 06, 2015 9:20 pm

Hi Mac,

It would be easier to explain with drawing but I cannot upload a diagram yet, so here goes:

Assumption is that the invisible boundary line runs along the North face of my outbuilding (ground level), and their property starts immediately north of that building wall. The North side of the new wall aligns with the back of my building (inside the boundary line) and gradually diagonally traverses the invisible boundary line until it intersects with a fence post acknowledged to straddle the boundary. Roughly 75% of the wall 'footprint' is solely on my side of the boundary (16.5m x .23 [one brick] = 3.79m sq; strike a diagonal from one corner of footprint to midpoint at other end = 25% of total footprint).

I hope this is helpful?

Thanks very much.
Swift Cottage
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:52 pm

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